Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra, review: Brighton Dome, December 1

Thomas Gould. Photograph by Aga Tomaszek
Thomas Gould. Photograph by Aga Tomaszek

The latest Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra concert season is breaking new ground.

And while the latest offering on Sunday reverted to a somewhat more traditional choice of programme, there was still the innovation in guest conductor Natalie Murray-Beale and soloist violinist Thomas Gould. They both made their Dome debut with the much-beloved orchestra.

The visitors’ paths had crossed earlier in the year as Australian Murray-Beale made her Barbican debut with the Britten Sinfonia, one of the most celebrated unconducted ensembles in the world, of which Gould is leader.

On Sunday it was also noteworthy in that the conductor and the leader of the BPO were both female, Ruth Rogers stepping into the latter role and looking perfectly at ease. The same could also be said of Murray-Beale, whose neat and somewhat understated style of conducting in no way diminished from her control of the orchestra.

Gould produced a highly acclaimed recording of Vaughan Williams’ nostalgic and much-beloved The Lark Ascending in 2015 and his delivery of the piece was truly sublime.

The programme also included Williams’ Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus, Haydn’s Symphonies Nos 45 and 49 and the ever-popular Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart. Three such wonderful composers on the same bill was certainly a winner with me and there was some added humour in that Haydn’s No 45 is nicknamed Farewell as the orchestra took it in turns to leave the stage before just two violins were left. It is thought the great man contrived this somewhat unsubtle hint to his employer, Prince Nicholas Esterhazy, because he felt the musicians were in much need of some time off after a particularly hectic schedule. Apparently it worked.

The season continues with the traditional New Year’s Eve Viennese Gala on Tuesday, December 31, where guest conductor Stephen Bell is joined by soprano Ailish Tynan and the first concert of 2020 features the brass section of the BPO on February 9.